One of the most visible Southland supporters of Arizona’s proposed illegal immigration enforcement law is longtime L.A. homeless activist Ted Hayes. He’s an African-American who aligned himself with national anti-immigrant groups about five years ago under the rationale that deporting all illegal immigrants would help solve the nation’s homeless problem. The group doesn’t have many followers, but it does hope to make a big presence in Phoenix this weekend with others to oppose a judge’s blocking of the main provisions of Arizona’s new immigration law.
The name of Ted Hayes’ organization is America’s Black Shield.
"The illegal immigrant movement is claiming they have a civil right to be in this country illegally and to avail themselves of the benefits and resources that belongs to U.S. citizens," said Hayes.
Hayes says illegal immigrant supporters should stop invoking the civil rights legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Tax preparer Chanell Temple is the only woman in the group. An incident several years ago convinced her that if the United States deported illegal immigrants, it would improve the welfare of African-Americans.
"You know what happened, I was fired from my job and told that I did not speak Spanish in my country," said Temple. "I was fired from my job because of racists, illegal aliens. That’s what happened."
Temple was a bookkeeper, but she wouldn’t name the private company for which she worked. Nachum Shifren, a sometime political candidate who gained notoriety years ago as the “Surfing Rabbi,” is the group’s only non-black member.
"I’m involved because I’ve been teaching for 22 years and I’ve seen the L.A. city schools go from bad to worse," said Shifren. "We have 25 percent of our students are not American citizens and the only reason they’re there is because people feel guilty about saying that they should leave. They don’t have the guts to say it. I do."
Compulsory public education is available to all minors, regardless of their immigration status. Public schools do not collect data on the number of illegal immigrant students.
Shifren is running for California state senate in the heavily African-American 26th district. Members of America’s Black Shield, gathered in the Inglewood parking lot of a member’s office, nodded in agreement as Shifren drove a point home with stereotypes.
"I think what it really boils down to is they see the future, as the Mexican families are having six, seven, eight kids and African-Americans are having just a couple, so they apparently are gritting for an explosion of third world people in our city, and I’m not going to put up with it."
Shifren is a substitute teacher of Spanish in L.A. Unified.
Lesley Jordan said the demographic changes he’s seen since he moved to L.A. from Akron, Ohio 24 years ago have made him angry.
"There were jobs," said Jordan. "There were still predominantly black neighborhoods. There are no more."
Various Southland anti-illegal immigration activists seek out members of America’s Black Shield – and in particular, its founder Ted Hayes. Most recently a Westminster activist asked Hayes to call on city council members in that Orange County city to support Arizona’s new anti-illegal immigration law. He acknowledged that as an African-American he doesn’t fit the popular perception of a supporter of Arizona’s SB1070.
"Why don’t you see more of us out there? Because we are intimidated. I’ve talked to school administrators in Compton, L.A. I’ve talked to custodial people, students. They are afraid to criticize illegal immigration publicly. They’re afraid to criticize Mexicans."
Hayes and his group say there’s no middle ground. They oppose amnesty and support the deportation of illegal immigrants to improve the economic prospects of this country. Hayes and members of America’s Black Shield characterize their trip to Phoenix as their contribution to a struggle to turn the clock back a generation of social and economic upheaval in the United States.